PLEASE NOTE: A much higher-quality DV version (2.3 GB) now available at http://www.archive.org/details/TripDownMarketStreetrBeforeTheFire
Pictures San Francisco's main thoroughfare as seen from the front window of a moving Market Street cable car, before the downtown area was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake and fire. This unusual record has been called the first "structural film" because it follows exactly the externally imposed structure of the car ride.
Here is a post from the SFGate blog that explains some of the history of this film and how film scholar David Kiehn discovered that it was in fact produced in 1906 (just before the quake and fire), not 1905: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/stew/detail?entry_id=62237
A TRIP DOWN MARKET STREET: taken from the front of a street car starting from about 9th and Market and going down to the Ferry Building at the foot of Market and turning around / autos / streetcars / people.
LC synopsis (taken from website) reads:
This film, shot from the front window of a moving Market Street cable car, is a rare record of San Francisco's principal thoroughfare and downtown area before their destruction in the 1906 earthquake and fire. The filmed ride covers 1.55 miles at an average speed of nearly 10 miles per hour. While there is no production or copyright information on the film, the state of completion of the Flood Building and the Monadnock Building indicate that the year is 1905. Also, the apparent position of the sun in relation to the time visible on the Ferry Building clock point to early September as the month. Market Street, graded through sand dunes in the 1850's, is 120 feet wide, and nearly 3.5 miles long. The street runs northeast from the foot of Twin Peaks to the Ferry Building. Different street grids, diagonal on the northwest side and parallel on the southeast side, create several awkward diagonal intersections along Market Street, contributing to the chaotic traffic situation that is evident in the film. San Francisco's cable cars, which first began operations in 1873, have no power of their own, and operate by "gripping" a moving cable beneath a slot in the street. This is the origin of the name "south of the slot" for the South-of-Market Street district. The Market Street lines, dating from 1883, merged in 1902 to form the United Railroads of San Francisco. Dark cars served westerly neighborhood lines extending along McAllister, Hayes and Haight streets, light cars served southwesterly neighborhoods, with the lines extending along Valencia and Castro streets. The Market Street section of the lines ended at the Ferry Building, where passengers boarded ferries for Oakland, Alameda, or Berkeley, across San Francisco Bay. East of Sutter Street, horse cars ran along Market Street. Independently owned, they ran on side tracks to the Ferry Building. A few electric streetcars, dating from 1892, are seen in the film crossing Market Street. Market Street itself reverted to electric streetcars in 1906, following the earthquake and fire. In all, the film shows some thirty cable cars, four horse cars and four streetcars. An interesting feature of the film is the apparent abundance of automobiles. However, a careful tracking of automobile traffic shows that almost all of the autos seen circle around the camera/cable car many times (one ten times). This traffic was apparently staged by the producer to give Market Street the appearance of a prosperous modern boulevard with many automobiles. In fact, in 1905 the automobile was still something of a novelty in San Francisco, with horse-drawn buggies, carts, vans, and wagons being the common private and business vehicles. The near total lack of traffic control along Market Street emphasizes the newness of the automobile. Granite paving stripes in the street marking ignored pedestrian crosswalks, making the crossing of Market Street on foot a risky venture. The pedestrian "islands" for homeward-bound downtown cable car commuters are among the few signs of order visible in the film.
The following is a scene-by-scene description of the film: [Frame: 0300 (part 1)] The film begins looking northeast on Market Street just west of the intersection of Hyde, Grove and 8th streets. The dark building at right is the Odd Fellows Hall and the grey building beyond (across 8th St.) is the Grant Building (1905). A white postal service automobile is at left center. The three large buildings receding down Market Street at left are [0319 (part 1)] the Murphy Building (1889), [0353 (part 1)] the Donohoe Building (1890), and the Flood Building (1905). The distant tower of the Call Building (1897) is at center right. Roadwork is underway at far left, and a city water wagon is at right. [0428 (part 1)] After a break in continuity, the film jumps ahead one block and approaches the intersection of Taylor St. and Golden Gate Ave. on the left. [0565 (part 1)] The view includes the prominent Flood Building on the left, the distant Ferry Building in the center, the domed Call Building at right center and the Emporium department store (1896) with the white side wall, on the right. The newly finished Call Building, the largest office building in the west, was the latest addition to San Francisco's skyline in a building boom that had begun in the 1890's. All of the buildings named above were either rebuilt or refitted after the 1906 earthquake and fire. [0603 (part 1)] The cut masonry facade at right, beyond 6th, is Hale Brothers Dry Goods. [1216 (part 1)] A street sweeper is at work on the right. [1488 (part 1)] The column at left is the Native Sons Monument (1897) at the Mason/Turk Streets intersection. Honoring California's admission into the Union in 1850, it now stands at the intersection of Montgomery and Market streets. [1885 (part 1)] As a lady boards a cable car, a man gets off and crosses Market Street carrying a baby. [3086 (part 1)] At left, one of the downtown home-bound cable car commuter "islands" comes into view. [3321 (part 1)] Next, the entry awning of the Emporium department store appears on the right, while beyond, the California Academy of Sciences Building (1891) and the old Flood Building (1888), which were not rebuilt after 1906, can be seen. [3615 (part 1)] A confused pedestrian dodges traffic at center as an umbrella-carrying businessman boards a cable car. Ahead, [4000 (part 1)] a group of young women, dressed according to age, await a cable car. On the left, the "flatiron" Phelan Building is largely in shadow and beyond, at the Kearny/Geary streets intersection, the double-blank rear wall of the Mutual Savings Bank (1902) and the dark Chronicle Building (1890) can be seen [4143 (part 1)]. Next, a dark, low-slung drayage cart crosses to the right, beneath a wall advertisement for Sanborn and Vail Wholesalers [4432 (part 1)]. As the camera approaches the Stockton/Ellis Street intersections, a shuttered electric streetcar (perhaps a mail car) crosses from Ellis Street [4596 (part 1)]. For the next two blocks we will pass through the busiest portion of Market Street, with the main business district extending along the streets to the left (north). [4766 (part 1)] A policeman and a lady dressed daringly in white are seen at right before a jumble of Victorian facades between 4th and 3rd streets, and at center [5018 (part 1)] a father and sailor-suited son appear. Beyond them [5580 (part 1)] we encounter an impatient commuter who raises a hand hoping to stop our cable car. [Cataloger's note: the first 2060 frames of part 2 (approx. 1:10) are repeated from the end of part 1] [Frame: 2160 (part 2)] A sign for "Pianos" is at upper right. As the camera approaches the Kearny/Geary Street intersection, several buildings come into view. At left the Mutual Savings Bank and, across Kearny, the Chronicle (newspaper) Building and the rear of the Crocker Building [2765 (part 2)]. In the distance at the center is the Ferry Building, and closer in, the row of repeated bays is the great Palace Hotel (1873), the largest and most luxurious hotel in the west. Next to the hotel is the unfinished Monadnock Building and the white-walled Hearst (Examiner newspaper) Building (1897) at the corner of 3rd Street. At the far right, (on the near side of 3rd Street) is the columned entry of the Call (newspaper) Building. For obvious reasons, this Market Street intersection was called "Newspaper Row" or "Newspaper Corner." All of these buildings were rebuilt or refitted after 1906. Ahead [2970 (part 2)] an electric streetcar crosses the very busy intersection from Kearny to 3rd Street. At left note the flags flying in the breeze while at right the camera passes a wooden structure built to protect pedestrians beneath the unfinished Monadnock Building. [3490 (part 2)] Well-dressed businessmen cross the street and ahead [3681 (part 2)] on the right are two newspaper boys. Next, [4010 (part 2)] an electric sightseeing streetcar crosses to Kearny Street. Note the activity at this busy intersection [4380 (part 2)]. At left, in shadow, is the Crocker Building [4575 (part 2)] and beyond (across the Montgomery/Post Streets intersection) is the Union Trust Bank. We pass a group of women in fashionable hats at right [4645 (part 2)], and as we approach the Montgomery/Post Streets and New Montgomery Street intersection the Union Trust Bank and Hobart Building [4945 (part 2)] are seen at left, while on the right is the 1870 Victorian style Grand Hotel. An automobile full of joyriders at left [6410 (part 2)] will return back to the Ferry Building from here. Note the bright sunshine and strong shadows here, while the fluctuating light levels may indicate that fog is passing overhead. Having passed through the heart of downtown, the camera approaches the Sansome/Sutter Streets intersection, where a Western Union clerk (from his Hobart Building office) hopes for a ride [6695 (part 2)]. Next comes San Francisco's wholesale district, where coffee, tea, and spice companies, as well as various light industrial businesses, were located. Note the many large drayage wagons [6927 (part 2)]. Next is the Battery/Bush Streets and 1st Street intersection. From here to the Ferry Building is filled land in the former Yerba Buena Cove of gold rush days. At right is the Sheldon Building (1887). [7358 (part 2)] A businessman with very tight shoes crosses Market Street and later, [Frame: 0100 (part 3)] a lady in a white-feathered hat boards a cable car. The spired building on the left [0547 (part 3)] is the McColl Building, located at the Davis and Pine streets intersection; the turreted O'Brien Building (1890) at right is at the corner of Fremont Street. Note the express wagon ahead of the camera [1290 (part 3)]. The boy looks out the back as the driver looks back from the side. The black driver is the only non-white person seen in the film (San Francisco's population was 95% white in 1905 compared to 49% in 1993). [1400 (part 3)] A Sutter Street horse car approaches at left behind a heavily-laden drayage wagon. Ahead on the right is a General Arthur Cigars wall advertisement [2300 (part 3)]. The Ferry Building clock reads 3:17 as a California Street horse car, enroute to the Ferry Building, crosses in front of us [3000 (part 3)]. Note the water on the street [3455 (part 3)] (probably from a morning shower) and the advertisement on the wall at right for Nathan Hale Havana Cigars. The camera approaches East Street (today called the Embarcadero) and the Ferry Building cable car turntable. Note the small cable car staff booth. A People's Express van crosses in front [4659 (part 3)], followed by a cart enscribed "Eureka, California." [4710 (part 3)] The cable car has reached the end of the line. The Ferry Building cornerstone reads, "Erected 1896 by the Board of the State Harbor Commission." (The building opened in 1898 and was finished in 1903.) A man's beard blows in the wind [5318 (part 3)] as the car turns on the turntable (pushed by staff), panning across the north section of East Street. Note the advertisement for Owl Cigars [5614 (part 3)] and the Hotel Terminus sign on Market Street [5776 (part 3)].
San Francisco, California Streetcars Trolley cars Urban culture Urban history Street scenes Traffic Right-of-way
It identifies the owner of the car with the 4867 plate as a Jay Anway.
May 9, 2010 Subject:
Trip down market street
It should be noted that the driver of the car with the license plate of what appears to be #4867 is more than likely Harry Miles of the Miles Bros. who shot this film. He would be one of the first film makers to place himself anonymously in his own movies similar to the way Alfred Hitchcock did. The Miles Bros. had just built the first fully functioning and equipped motion picture studio and were set to start cranking out films and distributing them the way films are done today. Unfortunately, the earthquake and fire devastated and destroyed all the equipment, plans, and photos of the studio. Less than 2 years later Harry, who was the creative mind behind the Miles Bros. is believed to have taken his own life leaping from his New York apt. building. A fantastic trip to the past. This film is incredible at showing all of the nuances of daily life over 100 years ago.
March 26, 2010 Subject:
The trip down Market
Very cool and surprisingly good footage. The free for all in traffic is great - what a hoot! It does seem as though some of the people, especially the kids, are playing up to the camera, trying to get into the shot.
This film, originally thought to be from 1905 until David Kiehn with the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum figured out exactly when it was shot. From New York trade papers announcing the film showing to the wet streets from recent heavy rainfall & shadows indicating time of year & actual weather and conditions on historical record, even when the cars were registered (he knows who owned them and when the plates were issued).. It was filmed only four days before the quake and shipped by train to NY for processing. Amazing but true!
June 5, 2009 Subject:
Re: Trip Down Market Street Before the Fire
Wow, this is an amazing movie made from 1905. I enjoyed looking at what life was like 104 years ago. It made me wonder what people were thinking and doing at that time. What were they thinking about? Where they were coming from and going to? What news they were hearing about at the time? What were the trends and I try to think about what I know about American History of that time (aka: President Theodore Roosevelt). That motion film is an excellent capture of time for anyone to think and try to relate to those people 104 years ago. There were lots of stories to be created from that; no script planned. That's unique.
January 16, 2009 Subject:
This film is simply amazing. It should be a standard in American History classes. I knew that traffic in the early part of the 20th Century was much congested and dangerous, but you really can't appreciate it unless you see it. This film shows the need for traffic rules. No one seems to give a care for anyone else on the road, nor looks for that matter. It does explain why there were so many accidents reported in the newspapers at the time.
On the technical side the film is very clear and detailed compared to other films of the day. It has been preserved well. It is a pity that the projector used to display the film would cause the image to roll. Perhaps this can be fixed in a future restoration.
These five stars go to both the original film-maker for their pioneering work in documentary film-making and to the Prelinger Archives for restoring the footage, making it possible for all of us to see it.
I could actually make out the gas-powered lamps on some of the automobiles of the day and recognize the coaches on the cable cars as being very similar to the electric street-cars I rode is as a small child in New Orleans, LA.
Another five stars should go to the poignancy of the fact this may very well be the last footage taken of Market Street before the horrific 1906 earthquake and fire.
May 21, 2008 Subject:
At first, I kind of questioned if this was actually filmed in 1905 due to the number of automobiles on the road. I thought they would have been more of a novelty at the time. I noticed a few comments about some of the technical aspects of this film, but I'm impressed that someone took the effort to mount a camera and hand crank it for the duration and, although not having personal experience from riding a San Francisco cable car in 1905, I imagine it wasn't the smoothest ride - probably nothing would have been at the time. It's fantastic that someone made this and it still survives.
May 15, 2007 Subject:
Footage after the fire.
As mentioned below there is also footage of this same route taken after the earthquake and fire of 1906. Gloomy and photographicly grainy but none the less interesting, It is located here at the archive.
This beautiful and fascinating historical ride through San Francisco is IMHO completely ruined by the moving frame.
I wish someone would fix it.
December 2, 2006 Subject:
This movie is just great, it's kind of an unintentional documentary of street life in 1905 ;)
The frame roll DOES actually disturb a little, someone offered to fix that, I'd love to see a version without that frame roll, even if there is a white line in the middle. As Mr. Prelinger said, it would be really difficult getting a better telecine, so doing what's possible with this would surely be an acceptable solution if someone had the time to do it.
August 14, 2006 Subject:
Before / After
Not yet mentioned by anyone below, there's also an identical trip down Market Street just AFTER the fire. It's somewhat cryptical title is "tmp_50168". It is mirrored, so you have t flip the image yourself, but check these two out in tandem: the same route, the same speed; absolutely incredible!!!
May 26, 2006 Subject:
Like a trip going back in time
Fascinating film footage. No traffic lights, the way cars and carriages scuttled across the trolley tracks, etc. I felt bad for the horses. People seemed to take larger steps. It was a much different world. Very poignant, especially considering the tragic fire that was soon to effect most of these people. One of the best historical films in the Prelinger collection.
May 26, 2006 Subject:
Like looking thru the window of a time machine.
The eerie silence reminds me that all these people are long dead and gone.
Fascinating, I loved it!
January 2, 2006 Subject:
Someone else mentioned this, but it is interesting how people crossed the street when and where they pleased. This must have been the case on every street. No need to worry about a car bearing down on you at 30 or 40 mph. Must have been a lot of people run over in the transition to faster and faster cars.
August 4, 2005 Subject:
Trip Down Market--the remake!
An earlier reviewer suggests a remake; someone's done it. Article below from the Chronicle, which, irritatingly, doesn't mention Ernie Gehr's film (and uses the word "herky-jerky.")
Wednesday, August 3, 2005 (SF Chronicle)
After 100 years, not much has changed on Market Street -- well, not too much
ÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂ ÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂ ÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂ On a sunny September afternoon in 1905, a man named Jack Kuttner attached a camera to a San Francisco trolley and shot black-and-white film as the streetcar rolled east from 10th Street on Market Street. The result, a herky-jerky 20-minute film, is a time capsule of industrial age mobility...
ÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂ ÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂ ÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂ Few copies of Kuttner's film exist, but the Exploratorium, a museum in San Francisco, owns one. San Francisco filmmaker Melinda Stone saw it six years ago; transfixed, she decided to re-create it at its centennial. She is nothing if not patient. Years of planning came to fruition recently when she and a small crew shadowed Kuttner's feat. The result will be shown, along with Kuttner's film and local artists' transportation-related
work, at "A Trip Down Market Street 1905/2005," an outdoor screening on Sept. 24 in San Francisco's Justin Herman Plaza, sponsored by the Exploratorium.
Reviewer:Wilford B. Wolf
July 28, 2005 Subject:
This silent film is one of the earliest films in the Prelinger archive and an absolutely incredible document. The film, shot in 1905, covers Market St. before the destruction of the 1906 earthquake and subsequent fire. This film seems to be originally shot during the era when film making was novel and similar films were made to show city life in various parts of the world. As such, this makes this film a wonderful record of city life around the turn of the twentith-century. But because of the tradegy that the city would suffer in less than a year after the film was shot, it makes this film all the more important and poignant.
Do note that the film suffers from frame roll, especially at the begining and the end of the film and the last 30 seconds of the film seem to be select frames. However, given the age and importance of the film, these defects are forgiven. Otherwise, the image quality is quite good.
May 6, 2005 Subject:
Trip Down Market Street, revisited.
Avant-garde filmmaker Ernie Gehr reworked this footage in 1974 to make a half-hour film entitled "Eureka", available through Canyon Cinema.
May 2, 2005 Subject:
One big thing I noticed about this film, is the traffic carnage happening. I mean, you think all the jaywalking, speeding, unsafe turning is bad NOW, you should see this film, where pedestrians come out of nowhere, cars make totally unsafe crossings of the street, and people just zig and zag out. Watch for the kids running around looking at the camera, and the wonderful bit at the end, where the kid looks out from a covered horse and wagon.
February 24, 2004 Subject:
Some enterprising filmmaker ought to attempt to create a similar film in 2005, matching as closely as possible the location, camera position, time of day and year, and rate of speed moving down Market Street. The two films could then be composited as side-by-side moving images showing two views of San Francisco 100 years apart.
I'd like to attempt to correct the frame roll myself, but would need full frame uncompressed video to work from.
November 16, 2003 Subject:
A work of genius
Even today it's very rare to see such profound simple idea so well executed. And remember that in those days even fewer people realized the film medium's potential that today. Consider this for example: Berlin Wall was such a unique object which stood in place for 28 years yet we have no photographic or film record of it besides snippets. This film here shows its anonymous creator's amazing foresight. It also must have cost a lot of money to shoot it back then.
A technical note: it seems the speed has been overcorrected a bit: everything moves in a slight slo-mo.
Finally: the same person (apparently) reshot this film *after* the earthquake. This amazing film is at movies03.archive.org/2/movies/SanFranc1906_3 (note the suffix is "_3"; there is also a similar short film whose name ends with "_2" - a different thing, also quite interesting).
October 17, 2003 Subject:
Love This, plus An Offer
I love this film, and I'd be happy to correct the "vertical hold" issue for you. But in order to do a good job I'd really need a "full frame" telecine, that is, one that is not cropped at all and shows the very top and bottom of the frame area (maybe even a bit of the previous and next frames). Otherwise when I correct the roll movement by rejoining the top and bottom of the images and repositioning them, there will be a small gap between the two parts. Basically, the rolling images would be replaced with a small horizontal white bar travelling up the image. Better than the current issue, sure, but still not perfect.
Yes, I realise providing a full frame telecine means threading this precious film back through the telecine, so if you're not comfortable doing that then I'll work with what you've got already. Let me know, the offer is there.
(I'm still looking for a contact email, so I'll post this offer as a review for now)
October 11, 2003 Subject:
I see dead people.
Incredibly moving visual account. Thank you.
August 8, 2003 Subject:
I thought the traffic was bad today!
I thoroughly enjoyed this, the silence allowing me to see more than I would otherwise. I understand why stripes were painted on the streets and stop signs and eventually lights were installed. It was a health hazard to walk in that town! No right-of-way seemed to be observed. It would have rated a 5 if the vertical hold problem could be fixed.
July 19, 2003 Subject:
Very shaky picture
Cheezus, this looks all bumpy and messed up, like it was filmed 100 years ago or something.
July 18, 2003 Subject:
A Trip Down Market Street Before the Fire
What amazes me is the quality of detail in the pictures. A zoom lens and we would have been to see their souls.!!!
I particularly enjoyed the multitude of methods of transportation co-existing during the same period. When I studied history in school, I was left with the erroneous notion that once the car was created all other means of transportation dissapeared. This film shows us that it was not so.
A great historical treat! It was worth the almost two hours to download!
July 10, 2003 Subject:
Looking into the past
Enjoyed being able to look back to a time that I was not present for. Seeing this archival footage of the 1905 San Francisco area allowed me to see what a typical couple of minutes may have been like to live at that time and place.
I really enjoyed being able to see the people of the time, their transportation options, clothing, and places of business. What a great place it would have been to visit in the early 1900's.
It is such a powerful example of why humans need to preserve our motion pictures.